By Jeff Zrebiec
The Baltimore Sun
8:08 PM EDT, October 13, 2013
One-by-one, Joe Flacco rattled off the Ravens’ various offensive deficiencies. The list was long, but the Ravens quarterback summed them up quite nicely.
“It was overall not good,” Flacco said. “You can’t expect to play that badly for that long and win a game.”
For the better part of three quarters, the Ravens held down Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ high-scoring offense at M&T Bank Stadium, only to watch their own offense continue to deal with issues that threaten to derail their season if not soon corrected.
In a 19-17 loss in front of an announced 71,319, many of whom spent part of the afternoon booing the home team, the Ravens’ offense was shut out for the game’s first 40 minutes and kept out of the end zone for the first 48 minutes.
Flacco threw for 342 yards and tossed two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, one each to to Jacoby Jones and Dallas Clark. However, for much of the afternoon, the Ravens’ offense was beset by futility and folly.
“We just need to continue to get better,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, whose team dropped to 3-3 and lost to an NFC team at home for the first time in 11 games, spanning his six-season tenure. “We’ve got the right people, we’re doing the right things. The thing that we’re not going to do is overreact. You don’t go in there and make any kind of major adjustments when you know you’re doing things well, and you’ve got the people to do it. We’re a work in progress, no doubt about it. We would have loved to have won the game. We had a chance to do it in the end [and] we didn’t get it done.”
The Ravens rushed for just 47 yards 22 carries, with Ray Rice gaining only 49 all-purpose yards on 17 touches. They were a woeful 2-for-14 on third down. Flacco was sacked five times and found his best receiver, Torrey Smith, just once for 12 yards.
The Ravens’ offensive issues were also compounded by two coaching decisions that left room for second guessing.
About midway through the second quarter, the Ravens had first-and-goal from the Packers’ 4, thanks to a 45-yard connection between Flacco and Clark. Three straight runs by Rice yielded three yards, leaving the Ravens with 4th-and-goal from the 1 and Harbaugh with a key decision.
At that point, the Ravens had rushed six times for minus-13 yards, but Harbaugh went for the touchdown instead of sending Justin Tucker out on the field to attempt a game-tying field goal. Bernard Pierce was promptly stuffed for no gain as boos rained down for the first time Sunday afternoon.
“I wanted to go for it,” said right guard Marshal Yanda, who was called for two penalties in the game. “I was excited to get the chance to do it. Up front, we just didn’t get it done.”
The score was still 3-0 later in the second quarter when the Ravens had the ball on their own 34 with 12 seconds to go. Instead of running out the clock, the Ravens opted to throw and Flacco was strip-sacked by Nick Perry, who beat new Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe. Datone Jones picked up the ball and rumbled all the way down to the Ravens’ 13 before being tackled with two seconds left before halftime.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby, who just missed a 44-yard attempt 24 seconds earlier, hit this time from 31 yards, allowing the Packers to take a 6-0 lead into intermission.
“We had a better chance to complete a pass [or] get an offensive pass interference than we did to have that happen,” said Harbaugh, explaining the decision to stay aggressive. “You’ve got confidence in your guys. You give your guys a chance to make plays in situations like that.”
The six-point swing -- the Ravens not going for the field goal on fourth down and the Packers getting one after the Flacco fumble -- loomed large when the Ravens tried to come back from a 16-3 deficit late in the third quarter.
Green Bay took the 13-point lead when Rodgers, who lost two of his top receivers (James Jones and Randall Cobb) to first-half injuries, froze the Ravens’ secondary with a play fake, rolled to his right and found Jordy Nelson streaking past cornerback Lardarius Webb.
Rodgers hit Nelson in stride for the 64-yard score with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter. The Ravens’ offense finally answered with Flacco leading a 10-play, 80-yard drive that was finalized by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jones in the corner of the end zone.
But the Ravens could ill afford to trade points and their defense clearly was tiring. Leaning heavily on rookie Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 123 yards on 20 carries, the Packers engineered a 12-play drive that ate up seven minutes, 35 seconds. Crosby’s 31-yard field goal made it 19-10 and sent droves of fans to the exits.
“In the NFL, you stay with your running game, especially on the road,” said Ravens rush linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had 10 tackles but was held without a sack for the first time all season. “If you have a good running game on the road, you have a good chance to win.”
Flacco gave those who remained some hope with a 63-yard completion to Tandon Doss (four catches for 99 yards) on 4th-and-21 from the Ravens’ 19. On the very next play, Flacco hit Clark for an 18-yard touchdown as the veteran pulled the ball in with one hand.
However, trailing 19-17 with little more than two minutes to play, the Ravens never got the ball back. Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley for 52 yards on 3rd-and-3 and the Packers ran out the clock from there.
The loss dropped the Ravens into a second-place tie with the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North, with a game against their archival Pittsburgh Steelers looming next Sunday.
“We’ve just got to find a way to get it going for all four quarters,” Flacco said. “I think I’ve got to be better, and we all have to be better or we’re not going to win football games.”
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